Probe into court hike
AN INVESTIGATION has been launched into a council s decision to hike hire charges at its tennis courts by 1,000 per cent. Westminster council took the controversial decision to increase the amount it charged for the use of its Paddington Recreation Ground
AN INVESTIGATION has been launched into a council's decision to hike hire charges at its tennis courts by 1,000 per cent.
Westminster council took the controversial decision to increase the amount it charged for the use of its Paddington Recreation Ground, in Carlton Vale, from �86 a month to �1,000 a month in 2008.
Many residents and opposition councillors objected to the move, which they claimed would do irreparable damage to the livelihoods of two popular coaches, Bradley Roberts and Eduardo Caffarena, who would not be able to afford the new charges.
Mr Roberts, welcomed news that Westminster council faced investigation, and revealed the charges damaged his business to such a degree he has been forced to borrow money to stay afloat.
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He said: "I feel personally that we have been extremely hard done by and the council has acted totally unprofessionally. I trust that the ombudsman will undertake a thorough investigation, and that justice will be done."
He also alleged Nuffield Health, a company which runs the tennis courts on behalf of the council, employed tennis coaches who did not have the industry standard Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) coaching qualification, and did not have valid Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks, after increasing the charges.
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The local government ombudsman announced it was launching an investigation after a formal complaint against Westminster Council's actions was lodged.
In October 2008, 300 people signed a petition demanding the council reduce the fees, which prompted the council to drop the increase to a monthly charge of �150 with an additional �3 per hour charge for every hour booked by the coaches.
Paul Dimoldenberg, leader of the Labour opposition in Westminster, said the treatment of the tennis coaches was 'scandalous.'
He said: "The way the coaches were treated is quite wrong and I am demanding justice for them. We are delighted that the ombudsman has agreed to investigate this sorry state of affairs."
David Kerrigan, Westminster's strategic head of commissioning for sport and leisure, said the council is confident the investigation will exonerate them.
He said: "We are aware of this complaint and we will, of course, co-operate fully with the local government ombudsman and respond to their request for information.
"I am, however, confident that we have provided a fair and appropriate solution to the issues previously raised by the tennis coaches, while also delivering the best value to the community from these facilities."
A Nuffield Health spokeswoman said: "We are aware of the investigation, and are cooperating fully with the local government ombudsman.
"We manage the Paddington Recreation Ground on behalf of Westminster City Council, and are in agreement with the council that we have provided a fair solution to the issues previously raised by the tennis coaches.
"We can also confirm that every single member of the coaching team at the Paddington Recreation Ground is appropriately qualified in accordance with LTA requirements and also fully CRB checked, and any allegations to the contrary are unfounded and absolutely false.